what do I tell a two-year-old?

He keeps asking me about the border. Yousuf, I mean. He overhears things, ma3bar this and ma3bar that…and so naturally inquisitive, he asks what we are doing and why are we still here and each question if followed by another and another..

“Mama can I ask you something?”

“Anything, my love”

“Why are we still here, in Arish?”

“Because we are waiting to enter Gaza, dear”

“But then why don’t we go to Gaza?

Because the ma3bar is closed, my love.

“Why is it still closed??”

[silence]
“Mommy why is still closed?”

“I don’t know.” I know my, dear, but do you really want to know? Do you really need to know?

“Well who’s closing it mommy?”

What do I tell him? “Some bad people.”

“You mean like in the stories, like Sheer Khan in the Jungle Book?”

“Yes, sure, like Sheer Khan.”

“But who are they? Who are these bad people Is it the yahood?” He asks, mimicking what he’s heard on the border.

What do I say? I hesitate. “Look, there are some people; some are good, some are bad. And the bad ones are closing the border.”

But why? What did we do?

I wish I knew, my dear. I wish I had all the answers, my love, so I could answer all your questions. I wish I didn’t have to answer such questions to start with. But now I do, and what can I say to you?

“Mommy, please tell them to open it.”

“I tried, my dear.”

“Try harder. Try again. Tell them again. Please, tell them ‘Yousuf wants to enter Gaza’.”

And so it goes:

Dear Mr. Peretz: My son Yousuf, 2 years and 9 months, would like me to inform you that he wants to enter Gaza. He has asked me to tell whoever it is who is keeping it closed to open the border for him immediately. In fact, he asks me everyday. And now, asking is no long sufficient: he wants answers, too. Why is the border still closed? And who is keeping it closed and why? So, in addition to asking you to open the border, I am also writing to ask you what I can tell a 2 year old to satisfy his insatiable curiosity. What can I tell him of borders and occupation and oppression and collective punishment? What would YOU tell him? Lying doesn’t work-2 year olds are like natural born lie detectors. And so he figures it’s the bad guy-like in the stories that we all read growing up. And now, he demands to know who the bad guy is. What do I tell a 2 year old, Mr. Peretz, about the bad guy who won’t let him return home?

A Palestinian mother

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21 Comments

  1. Dear Laila

    As I see some Norwegians are reading your blog, I just wanted to inform them that if they want to let their Minister of Foreign Affairs know what they think Norway should do about this, they can write to him at umin@mfa.no
    Several of us already did, asking them to immediately convey to the Israeli government that they should open the border.

  2. Thank you habibti!!!! As you know I still believe in people power…

    boy, Oslo and Trondheim sure seem worlds away now. Incredible.

    in solidarity.
    L.

  3. Laila can always join the hundreds or thousands crossing the Allenby Bridge between Jordan and Israel and live in the more peaceful West Bank until the Egyptians open Rafah

    Until then she must explain to young Yousuf, 2 years and 9 months,that Hamas Government is to blame for problems in Rafah.Remember that even Abu Mazan is fed-up with Hamas actions of kidnapping Gilad Shalit,of Hamas firing missiles into Israeli civilians communities and instead of building schools,Hamas is buying weopons.Yousuf will hopefully understand one day that Arab terrorism is not the way to build a Palestinian state living in peace

  4. Dear Anonymous:

    Obviously, you don’t read what I write, but choose instead to spread your hateful, thoughtless words.

    So, Occupation 101:

    THE GAZA STRIP AND WEST BANK ARE COMPLETELY AND TOTALLY ISOLATD FROM ONE ANOTHER: Israel does not allow Gazan Palestinians, such as myself, to travel to the West Bank, or to use the Allenby Bridge.

    And its not the Egyptians who are closing Rafah, its ISRAEL.

  5. I am going to confess by stating that I know very little first hand about your experiences. Here I am this girl from California with too many abundant luxuries called freedom and dignity. I have long observed the monsterous ways in which the Palestinean people have been treated. I have spoken to Palestinean people in the U.S. and they have sort of whitewashed the circumstances…perhaps to not shock me.

    I don’t understand why the Palestinean people are not supported by their neighbors. The countries of the Middle East have been sold out into the hands of U.S. business interests. The problem is that not only are the Palestinean people not welcome in their own homes, but they aren’t welcome in other middle east countries as well. Countries like UAE, Lebanon, and Jordan have restricted access to residency and citizenship that the Palestineans can not partake. So, you are stuck.

    I really appreciate your insight. I can’t imagine what I would tell my son about discrimination and abusive treatment at the border of Rafah if I were you.

  6. I feel for you and those close to you, my friend.

  7. Actually, she doesn’t need to worry what to tell her son. He could be living in a peaceful country with his intact family if his American citizen parents chose to. But instead I guess they would rather their son grow up not knowing peace but rather live with the inconveniences placed on them by the YAHOODIS.

  8. so you think everyone shluld just let the yahoodis run them out?

    from the nile to the euphrates? and beyound?

    you dont think that keeping Al Aqsa is important?

    bet you are a yahoodi

  9. الفلسطينية

    so heartbreaking….it reminds me of a study i read recently about native americans and ‘historical trauma’…it basically discussed the ramifications of being born into a society with so much pain and history of grief and trauma and how that is passed on to the younger generation. so as the young ones become older they learn about the atrocities committed etc….and i just cant help compare that study to your situation with Yousuf. tell him we are all trying!

  10. Ok, not that this matters when it comes to claiming one’s enshrined right to return to their homes, BUT FOR THE FINAL TIME Yassine and I ARE NOT American citizens. Does nothing I write sink into you people’s little brains? OR is it just funner for you to come and provoke here in the comments section?

    Yassine has a refugee travel document for Palestinian refugees from Lebanon-and thus Israel denies him a right of return, while any fourth generation Jew can claim Israeli citizenship based on the Israeli Law of Return. I have a Palestinian Authority passport. PERIOD.

    We don’t CHOOSE to live with inconveniences, we only choose-or at least try to choose since we are denied even that right-to live in our homeland. The Occupation takes care of the rest, my friend-

    Now imagine YOU are not allowed to live with your OWN family in your home. “INconvenient” isn’t it.

  11. I remembered a similar situation when my little sister used to ask us about my father when he was in the “Israeli” jails. She was at the same age as Yousif now, and we did not know what to tell her, she did not believe us when we used to say he is traveling! you are true Laila, kids are really naturally lie detectors. Tell him more about Palestine, so he will never trade his rights for more “convenience” as that anonymous preached.

  12. Laila

    You are having some effect on the world’s conscience.

    The Independent (London) Christmas appeal is to help the people of Palestine.

    http://news.independent.co.uk/appeals/indy_appeal/article2040128.ece

    In a way, like Ghandi, you have achieved much by sitting in idleness beside a frontier post.

  13. Dear Layla,

    I sent your letter to our future president in France: Segolene Royale. She had been on “vacation” to Lebanon, Palestine and Israel. I hope she would give me an answer concerning French politics in the Middle East.
    Wish you the best, Layla and wish for Yusuf to live soon in an independant Palestine!
    Julie

  14. Why do you lie to your son Laila?

    Why not admit the truth?

    “The border is closed, dear Yousef, because rather than living in peace with our neighbors, the Israelis, our leadership has chosen to wage a campaign of hate and terror.”

    “For years, we wailed about the brutality of the ‘illegal occupation’ of Palestine. We pointed to those Israelis that lived in our midst as settlers. At one time, they shopped in our markets and employed many of us as workers. Gaza was a also place that Israelis could come to on Saturdays and eat in restaurants and shop. And Gazans could enter Israel and obtain lucrative employment, literally creating a Palestinian middle class.”

    “But we decided that it was more important to ‘fight the occupation.’ At first we largely just threw rocks, because that was all we had. But we insisted ‘end the occupation’ and your troubles will be gone.”

    “So Israel agreed to give administrative authority over parts of Palestine, including all of Gaza, to the Palestinian National Authority, led by the rais, Yasser Arafat. Even though he and his colleagues had been calling for Israel’s destruction for years. Even though they had never accepted Israel’s right to exist, ever. ‘You make peace with your enemies, not your friends’ said the Israelis.”

    “And so the PNA established its foothold in Palestine, armed, funded and trained by the U.S. ad Israel. And shortly thereafter, there was a brilliant young man called ‘the engineer’ who invented the concept of strapping a bomb to a young man’s chest – not much older than you my son! – and sending him across to Israel to detonate it so that it will kill Israelis who are engaged in all kinds of bad things. Eating lunch at a pizzaria, dancing at a nightclub, or sitting down for a Passover Seder.”

    “And we told the Israelis, just end the occupation, for good, we explained, and your troubles will go away forever.”

    “So, with the pressure from the United States President, Israel came to sit with the rais and negotiate a final resolution of the conflict. A lot of ink has been spilled over the parameters of what was offered. But one thing is not contested, that Israel would have included every single inch of Gaza in an offer of a new Palestinian state. All of those nasty settlers would have gone.”

    “But it wasn’t enough. And so we began our second intifada. Except this time, instead of rocks, we had guns and other weaponry, in part provided by those silly Israelis themselves! So we shot at Israelis, launched rockets at Israelis, and sent more beautiful young men with bombs strapped to their chests to be ‘shahids.’”

    “And Israel eventually decided that, in Gaza, it just wasn’t worth it to defend the few settlements in our land. So they evacuated them, completely. For years we said that these settlers were the ones who were preventing Gaza from prospering (ignore the fact that they actually helped us economically for several years!), and that if they left, Israel would have no need to have a military presence in Gaza.”

    “So now, my son, we have no Jews in Gaza. Some rich Jews from America even spent millions of dollars to purchase greenhouses of the settlers and gave them over to the Palestinians. That way we could have agricultural crops for consumption and export.”

    “But more important than living well is ‘fighting occupation.’ And when Israel removed its settlers from Gaza, it became that much easier to smuggle MORE weapons in and to launch MORE rocket attacks against Israel. We also elected Hamas, a racist, fundamentalist Islamic organzation which basis much of its charter on ‘The Protocols of the Elders of Zion,’ which no doubt we can teach you about if those nasty Jews…I mean Israelis…ever let us back into Gaza so you can go to school!”

    “The Jews…er…Israelis…have this bizarre theory. Which is if Palestinians use their territories as staging ground to try and kill them, that they somehow have the right to restrict access and movement to prevent weapons smuggling, rocket brigades, and terror attacks! Can you believe the arrogance! How dare they think their right to life supercedes our right to carry out an unhindered campaign of terror.”

    ——–

    “But mommy, why don’t our leaders just stop trying to kill the Jews so we can go back home?”

    “Because, my dear, as a Palestinian, it is more important to hate and fight Jews…er Israelis…than it is to love you.”

  15. supergirlest

    i’m completely sickened by these comments left here by people that won’t even bother to show their faces, to leave their names. not that it would matter. but i think it speaks volumes that the anonymous posters are hiding behind being anonymous. more than likeyl, because they really don’t believe what they say.

    laila – i’m here, checking in again, and was hoping that you’d finally made it through. this just doesn’t make sense. i have a son a year younger than yousuf. when i read your blog, i try to imagine what this must be like for all of you. it is just terrible. and little yousuf – if only he were running things! i find that his questions are my questions – at the very root.

    please be careful. i’m still trying to do whatever i can from my end.

  16. anon 6:22 why dont yu go back to where you came from or did they get tired of you endless compulsive lieing too?

    fact: israhell is stolen from palestine and israhell wants to steal more

    the only thing that slows you devil from hell down ir the resistence and the occainsional taste of you own blood

    soon the world will tire of carying welfare theives and killers…

    israhell has never supported itself…you are a nation of welfare rats…w/o the support of the US you would fall in a day…you have nothing but what you got in welfre and what you stole

    why dont you climb back down the pit you came from?

  17. Well, I’m not anonymous, and I am Israeli. And Laila, just curious, were you there when Israelis would drive, not tanks, but their old cars, to the Gaza market to buy fruits for their kids? And when Gazans could, without roadblocks, travel to Tel Aviv and work there?
    You make it sound that it is the “yahood” who chose to arbitrarily close the border. And yet, you say that your kid is an instant lie-detector. Guess what, Laila, we also have kids, and I have absolutely nothing against you – and certainly not against your adorable child – but I will close anything and everything to prevent suicidal maniacs from getting to my children. Plain and simple.
    I am quite sure you’d act the same were our positions reversed.
    Good day.

  18. Guy,

    You are another great example of why there is no progress in the ME. You simply cannot accept reality. In your mind, the Jews can do no wrong. EVER. PERIOD.

    Sorry, but Jews are just as capable of evil as any other human beings and right now what the Jews are doing in the ME is evil.

    Put aside your tribal loyalties and examine the issue using logic and reason.

    You can bluster all you want but it will NEVER BUY YOU PEACE.

    No justice, no peace; which means more death on both sides.

    BDE

  19. To Guy

    You say you will “close anything and everything to prevent suicidal maniacs from getting to my children.”

    I hope that you can realise that prohibiting palestinians from going home to the Gaza strip from Egypt is unrelated to allowing Palestinians from Gaza into Egypt.

    Palestian entry into Israel from gaza is also striclty regulated regardless of whether palestinians do or do not support certain forms of violent or criminal armed struggle.

    The right of Palestinians to go home to Gaza is unrelated to attacks upon Israeli population.

    The israeli orders of closing the borders is one of many forms of Israeli opression which obivously is not linked to security matters but with zionist policies which have wiped palestine off the map and continue to anhilate palestinian society, land (agriculture, monuments and dwellings), economy and authority (self determination).

    I hope that you and other israelis will recognise the Palestinian right to not be ethnically cleasned through the array of Israeli policies to this effect, because this is the only way to peace for both peoples.

    Barbara

  20. Correction of typo error on line 2: i meant to write: I hope that you can realise that prohibiting palestinians from going home to the Gaza strip from Egypt is unrelated to allowing Palestinians from Gaza into Israel.
    Sorry for any misunderstanding caused.

  21. Dear Laila,
    I just found your blog and have only had a chance to read a few entries. I am so moved by your writing and your telling of life under occupation. Thank you for writing this blog – I plan to share it with others.

    I hope, though, that reading the comments (which, maybe I’ll just avoid) doesn’t prove to be too much. Years ago I travelled to Gaza, the West Bank and Israel and it was such an overwhelming experience (both good and bad)…I am a bit ashamed to admit that after that experience I stopped following news about the conflict for some time. (I won’t elaborate on the whole thing here — wouldn’t really be appropriate, I guess).

    In the end though, I consider myself to be immensely lucky to have been to Palestine, especially Gaza. I hope to return one day and spend more time there.

    Thank you again.

    Lesley

    ps – I have no idea how small (or large) the Palestinian community is in NC, but I can’t help but wonder if you’ve met or know an acquaintance of mine who lives in the area. JH is not Palestinian but she is scholar/professor and has written extensively on Palestinians in exile (and if memory serves, you share the same name as her young daughter…who is probably about Yousuf’s age!)

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